Auburn's offensive efficiency wasn't lost on Tre Mason, Auburn's junior running back who rushed 1,002 yards a sophomore and is on a pace for another 1,000-yard season.
"It was a game to get everybody better and execute the offense," Mason said of the dismantling of Western Carolina, which was clearly overmatched on a day the home team did not have to punt the football.
With true freshman Jeremy Johnson starting in his first collegiate game and tossing four touchdown passes in the process, the running back trio of Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant led the ground attack. Mason rushed for 100 yards and touchdowns of 20 and 53 yards on only six attempts, Artis-Payne led the ground attack with 133 yards on seven carries with a 25-yard TD run and Grant added 83 yards on five rushes, including a 51-yard touchdown scamper.
"The running backs challenge each other because we are trying to get better," Mason said. "Corey dashed down the sideline for his touchdown and Cameron did great."
Contributing to the rushing total were senior Chandler Shakespeare and true freshman Johnathan Ford, who has been concentrating on cornerback with the Tigers having so much depth at running back. Shakespeare rushed 10 times for 61 yards. Ford added 45 yards on two carries, one for a 38-yard touchdown, before playing some cornerback later in the contest.
Coach Gus Malzahn credited the offensive line for its blocking. Malzahan said Avery Young got the start at right tackle over Patrick Miller. who the coach said has some "off field things" to take care of before he returns to action.
"We're from the same home town (Palm Beach, Fla.), so we don't let each other slack off," Mason said of his relationship with Young. "I thought Avery did great and was excited to get out there. Hopefully, we'll get to see him a lot more this year."
As for Johnson's performance, Mason said he was impressed. "I'm confident in both of them (Johnson and Marshall).
"Nick kind of coached Jeremy during the game and helped keep Jeremy's head right," Mason pointed out. "Jeremy was really confident and poised out there."
Mason expects a lot of scoring next Saturday when Auburn visits Texas A&M with Heisman Trophy quarterback Johnny Manziel. "That's probably what's going to happen, but I would like to dominate them," the junior running back said. "We have a long way to go to do that, but we will keep working."
*Tre Mason's pair of first-half touchdowns give him 16 rushing touchdowns and 18 overall in his career. His rushing total was his second 100-yard game this season and fifth of his career. It's the 28th time in Auburn history a player has gained 100 or more rushing yards in the first half.
*There were a lot of firsts for Auburn Saturday in the victory over Western Carolina, starting with true freshman quarterback Jeremy Johnson.
--Johnson's first snap was a speed sweep handoff to Ricardo Lewis for 11 yards.
--His first pass completion went for 15 yards to Trovon Reed on Auburn's opening touchdown drive of 74 yards on six plays, capped on a 20-yard run by Tre Mason.
--Johnson completed his first four passes for 46 yards, including his first touchdown pass of eight yards to fullback Jay Prosch.
--Johnson's first incompletion was targeted at Ricardo Lewis.
--His first interception was a deep pass attempted to Lewis that was picked off by Fred Payne at the Western Carolina 26.
In other news and notes:
*During Auburn's 42-3 first-half dominance Johnson completed 13-of-18 passes for 183 yards and touchdowns of eight yards to Prosch, 46 to Lewis and 22 Tony Stevens. The touchdown receptions by Prosch, Louis and Stevens were the first of their Auburn careers.
*Johnson played one series in the third quarter before giving way to sophomore Jonathan Wallace. He added his fourth touchdown pass, a three-yarder to Quan Bray to cap that drive, completing his afternoon with 201 yards passing on 17-21 for four touchdowns and one interception.
*Johnson's four TD passes were the most by an Auburn quarterback since Clint Moseley threw four against Ole Miss in 2011 and tied him with Stan White (vs. Cal State Fullerton, 1990) for second-most career passes by an Auburn QB in his first career start but the most by a true freshman. Daniel Cobb threw for five touchdowns against Louisiana Tech in his debut in 2001 as a senior.
*Melvin Ray, a sophomore walk-on who previously played professional baseball, caught his first career pass, a 10-yarder from Johnson late in the opening quarter. Ray finished the first half with three catches for 44 yards.
*Johnathan Ford, a freshman from Big Cove, Ala., who had been moved from running back to defensive back in fall camp, rushed for a 38-yard touchdown--his first as a Tiger--and then played cornerback on defense in the fourth quarter.
*Auburn's 62 points were its most since scoring 65 against Arkansas in 2010.
*Auburn finished with a school-record 712 yards of total offense (511 rush, 201 pass, 65 plays). The previous record was 695 yards against Southwest Louisiana in 1985 (565 rush, 130 pass, 76 plays).
*Auburn's 712 yards of total offense is ninth-best in SEC history.
*The 511 rushing yards are the third most in AU history. The school record of 565 was set against Southwest Louisiana in 1985. Next on the list is 526 yards rushing against Furman in 1946.
*Auburn's 11.88 yards per carry (43 carries , 511 yards) eclipsed the previous Auburn record (20-plus rushes) of 11.14 against Ball State in 2005 (35 rushes, 390 yards).
*Auburn has had a 100-yard rusher in five of its six games this season, including each of the last three.
*The 42 points were the most in the first half since the Tigers scored 48 vs. Chattanooga in 2010.
*Auburn had 539 yards total offense more than Western Carolina. That is the biggest discrepancy since the Tigers finished with 597 more yards of total offense than Ole Miss on Oct. 5, 1985 (Auburn 606, Ole Miss 9).
*Auburn held Western Carolina to 173 yards of total offense. The last time Auburn held an opponent under 200 yards was in 2011 vs. Florida (194).
*The Tigers held Western Carolina to 66 yards rushing, which is the lowest rushing total by an AU opponent since it held Alabama A&M to 22 yards rushing in 2012.
*Auburn's nine touchdowns (five rushing, four receiving) came from eight different players. That is the most since seven different players scored against UTC in 2010.
*Artis-Payne (133 yards) and Mason (100 yards) became the first pair of Auburn players to rush for more than 100 yards in the same game since Mason (181) and Onterio McCalebb (104) did it against Alabama A&M in 2012.